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Talking to GRAMMY nominated and 2019 Songlines Award winner Fatoumata Diawara

Talking to GRAMMY nominated and 2019 Songlines Award winner Fatoumata Diawara

One of the brightest stars of African music Fatoumata Diawara is coming to London’s Roundhouse.  Born in 1982, the Malian musician currently residents in France, where she went to pursue acting, leading to a role in Cheikh Oumar Cissoko’s 1999 feature La Genèse, Dani Kouyaté’s popular 2001 film Sia, le rêve du python, in the theatre troupe Royal Deluxe, and playing the lead role in the musical Kirikou et Karaba. Taking up the guitar she began composing her own material, writing songs blending Wassalou traditions of Southern Mali with international influences. Known for her distinct “sensuous voice,” she has performed and recorded with Paul McCartney, Womack, Oumou Sangaré, AfroCubism, Dee Bridgewater (on Red Earth: A Malian Journey), and the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Her debut album Fatou was released in September 2011. Diawara is about to play at Camden’s Roundhouse on 30th Jan 2020 fresh after winning the best Africa and Middle Artist at the Songlines Awards in 2019. We caught up with the busy artist. ( Main image_  AIDA_MULUNEH)

How do I describe my music? I describe it as between two things, when I compose, I sing in my traditional language and traditional accent and the traditional type of singing.  I have been a professional singer in Paris and I used to go a bar and have jam sessions with friends and I have been learning music, I mean the compositions in the bars of Paris because I was performing with different instruments not the traditional Malian instruments, but like a piano bar, bass and guitar. I was exposed to rock songs, jazz, those influences you can hear in my music. I have one foot in traditional music and one foot in modern music. I am trying to mix the both.

Fatou portrait credit Marco Ferrario2
Fatou portrait credit Marco Ferrario

When did I discover music? In Mali you grow up with music, you listen to it and we sing and dance naturally because of our traditional instruments. My father used to play the traditional music that is what we grew up with.

What makes Mali music distinctive? I think it is because of our instruments and our singing is very diverse, in Mali you can find 20 or more types of singing and every personality will bring you a different sonority, defined through our instruments which without it would not be so diverse. You can put myself, Amadou et Mariam, Salif Keita, Tinariwen, Boubacar Traoré and we are all going to bring you a different sound based on the same sonority because the blues is the base of our music but through our instruments, it depends on which instrument you use, as your voice will change through that.



Winning the Songlines Awards? I am very happy to receive this prize as it is my first official prize, I have been nominated for the Grammys at the beginning of 2019 and the Songlines awards at the end of the year and I am so happy and honoured to win this prize. Because after a hard year of touring and I was pregnant as well, I could not complete my tour. What can I say for me the prize is going to motivate a lot of girls in Mali and Africa who are to me very important and to whom I am an example to. It will motivate girls around the world who follow me and the women who like my pages to them I just want to dedicate this prize.

What can you expect for my night at the Roundhouse? Is to have fun with my audience, just to go crazy with them. having fun and just to enjoy the moment and let our spirits be free for 2 hours, freedom, love, love and crazy.

Working with great artist like Womack and Paul McCartney?  It is confirmation to me that being successful depends on your character, how you think, they are very generous, and have a lot of generosity, they are human, nice people and are humble. Teaching me how to be humble, how to be simple and at the same time being strong. I really love and respect them a lot and they respect me too. It was a school for me I was learning through their music but also how simple they are. It was great to work with them.

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Outside of music what do I like doing? OMG! I like acting, dancing I like too. Dancing and acting, being an actress.

Who are my music heroes? I have loads but I am going to mention one or two. For now, they are all women.  I like a traditional singer from my country Mali, she is not well known to a global audience she is called Coumba Sidibé, she is no longer with us she passed away about 10 years ago. But I still listen to her she reminded me of Nina Simone she had a very heavy voice, very low and strong voice quite masculine. I really like when  women accept their male side. Nina Simone and Coumba are two artists that I love.

What do I have lined up for 2020? It is performing, touring, touring a lot as the latest album is only 1 year old, we still have big demand and invitations from many countries. So, I am going to try and answer those invites. Not all of them but the maximum. Music is like water you must be able to reach every place that you  want, or you need. So, touring and collaboration and working on my next album. To book tickets for Thursday’s performance click here.

Ticket giveaway here:

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